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Last Updated: Friday, 23 January, 2004, 17:19 GMT
Gabriel to launch musicians' union

By Tim Weber
BBC News Online business editor in Davos

Peter Gabriel at the Davos meeting
Gabriel founded digital download firm OD2
Rock legends Peter Gabriel and Brian Eno plan to launch on Monday a musicians' union to help artists stand their ground in the digital age.

The union will be called Mudda, short for "magnificent union of digitally downloading artists".

"The digital environment will change the way music is made, and here artists need a voice", Peter Gabriel told BBC News Online at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

In the age of digital downloads musicians and the music industry have had to find a way of giving consumers what they want while securing revenue streams.

Getting control

"Some think that we want to cut out parts of the music business, but that's not the case," Gabriel said.

He said musicians needed the record industry, because they were "good at making music and not necessarily good at marketing".

But musicians should not be the slaves of record companies either, he said.

"We need a model partnership where every artist should have a controlling influence in the whole production process - if they want it."

Artists have already gained more control, Gabriel said. In the 1970s, for example, they could not even influence the design of album covers.

Now other things needed to change as well.

How to compete with free?

Gabriel said he could not understand big music stars that advocated free music downloads while accepting big cheques from record companies at the same time.

After all, most artists depended on record sales for up to 60% of their income, he said.

Only superstars could afford to give away their music for free, because they had other opportunities for making money.

Managing digital rights, Gabriel said, would require some encryption to ensure a revenue stream, but ultimately the record industry would have to give the consumer what he wants.

Copyright issues and digital downloading have been high on the agenda at the World Economic Forum of business and political leaders in Davos.

Peter Gabriel himself was a discussion leader in sessions like "How can you compete with free".

Apart from being a successful musician, running his own record studio and the Real World record label, he is also active in the field of digital downloading.

As one of the founders of OD2, which stands for On Demand Distribution, he is offering 300,000 songs in MP3 and WMA format and the download technology to retailers like Freeserve, Tiscali, Wanadoo and Virgin.

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